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Detroit Evens the World Series with 3-1 Win


While the World Series kept many of us up late last night, at least later than usual, and if you stayed up long enough to see the first inning, you saw enough. The Detroit Tigers jumped out to an early lead in game two. Pitcher Kenny Rogers never gave up that lead, though, he did get caught in controversy.

NPR's Tom Goldman reports from Detroit.


TOM GOLDMAN: With all due respect to Tiger's Carlos Guillen, three important hits, and Craig Monroe, a second World Series homerun, last night once again belonged to an excitable, middle-aged, left-handed pitcher who has become the darling of Detroit.

Kenny Rogers is almost 42 and on a team with young studs who can throw 100 mile-an-hour fastballs. Many of his pitches couldn't be the car going 80 down the freeway. But no one was talking about speed after Rogers held the Cardinals to two hits and no runs in his eight innings of work.

He has now pitched 23 playoff innings in a row without giving up a run, which, he was reminded at a post-game press conference, puts him in Hall of Fame company.

Unidentified Man: Twenty-three consecutive scoreless innings in this post season. The record is 27 by Christy Mathewson. Are you aware of that and what do you think about that?

Mr. KENNY ROGERS (Player): I'm no Christy Mathewson, that's for sure.


GOLDMAN: In fact, before this season Rogers' national reputation was closer to Attila the Hun. Last year, he infamously shoved two TV cameramen and threw a camera to the ground. Now his emotions appear to have been successfully channeled to the pitcher's mound.

His fist pumping and screams and his pinpoint accuracy have become the indelible images of the baseball playoffs. Rogers credits a cathartic first round playoff victory against his former team from New York.

Mr. ROGERS: Without a doubt, I believe going out there and having success against that Yankee team was huge for me, huge for my confidence. It's just that as an athlete, it gives you that release to where - sometimes it's your own mind that gets in the way, and I think mine got in the way early on. But really right now, I'm trying not to think too much and just go out there and compete.

GOLDMAN: But an incident last night threatened to derail the Kenny Rogers feel-good story. TV cameras picked up what appeared to be some substance on his pitching hand as the game began. Then the camera showed that the substance was gone an inning later. It raised suspicions that Rogers might have been using something illegal to doctor the ball. After the game, Rogers was asked about the sudden disappearance of the substance.

Unidentified Man #2: Did somebody complain or did you do it on your own?

Mr. ROGERS: No, I just saw it. No, I saw it. I didn't know it was there until after the inning and then went and took it off, and it was good.

Unidentified Man: So the umpires didn't mention it at all to you?


GOLDMAN: In fact, the home plate umpire told Rogers to clean his hand. That's according to baseball's umpire supervisor Steve Palermo, who met with reporters to try to clarify the situation. Rogers said the substance was a mix of dirt and rosin, which are legal.

Palermo said umpires observed it was dirt, although they never inspected Rogers' hand. Still, Palermo stressed there was nothing done intentionally. In other words, no cheating.

Mr. STEVE PALERMO (Supervisor, Baseball Umpire): There's absolutely no detection that Kenny Rogers put anything on the ball by any of the umpires.

GOLDMAN: Both managers tried to downplay the situations saying Rogers pitched great after the substance was gone, but that did not appease everyone. Last night, ESPN reviewed tapes of Rogers from earlier playoff games that reportedly revealed the substance on his pitching hand that looked the same.

Already, at least one columnist has referred to the controversy as dirt-gate with the series heading the St. Louis for game three tomorrow. Even some well-mannered Midwestern baseball fans might be tempted to keep the issue percolating.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Detroit.

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INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.